I’m a huge fan of the author J.K Rowling, so when I heard that she had written a mystery (a favorite genre) under a pseudonym, I was eager to get it. When Rowling published her first non-Harry Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, a lot of people were disappointed for, I feel, unfair reasons. It wasn’t set in the wizarding world, there was no magic, and absolutely no 11 year old witches and wizards with which to grow up with through attending midnight release parties at bookstores and then reading several hundred page books in a single sitting. Like The Casual Vacancy, Cuckoo’s Calling has absolutely nothing to do with the world of Harry Potter. But it’s an amazing book written by one of the most imaginative and talented writers around – so don’t let the lack of magic wants turn you away!
Cuckoo’s protaganist, Cormoran Strike, is the perfect anti-hero. He’s an overweight, hairy, newly single private detective with a prosthetic leg and whole lot of debt. At the beginning of his story, his relationship crumbles, and we later find out he’s the illegitimate child of a classic rocker and a rock-groupie mother. And yet, within first few pages, you are rooting for him. He takes on the case of the suspicious death of Lula Landry, a famous supermodel who falls (or is pushed?) from her high-end flat in London. Lula’s rise to success meant being surrounded by paparazzi (a very real concern for many that Rowling artfully tackles in her writing – even making parallels to Princess Diana’s untimely death) and people she can’t entirely trust. The police have ruled that it was a suicide – and she has a history of mental illness and a stint in rehab to support such a claim. But her brother feels that something else must have happened, and so he hires, of all people, Cormoran Strike.
I love mysteries, but like most people, hate when they’re too predictable. Often, you can guess who the guilty party is once you determine who the author is formulaic-ly trying to convince you, the reader, is the least likely suspect. This was absolutely not the case with Cuckoo’s Calling, which is extra impressive considering it was the author’s first mystery. Was it Lula’s drug-addicted boyfriend who she was seen fighting with hours before her death? A fellow supermodel who was constantly overshadowed by Lula’s success? Her downstairs neighbor, a successful film producer accustomed to getting what he wants and with a history of domestic violence? Her friend from rehab, who was desperate for money? Her uncle, who clearly seems to hate her? Or any number of other suspects? Rowling had me equally suspicious of many characters, and I have to say, as the true story of what happens became clear at the end, I was properly surprised. For that alone, I LOVED this book. The characters are well-written, the setting current, believable, and interesting, and the mystery was exactly that – a mystery to the very end! I give this book 5 stars – I highly recommend you check it out while I eagerly await Rowling’s next sure-to-be-fabulous book! ★★★★★